Reading Suggestions on Mystical Islam and Dreamwork

Dear all,

I hope you’re all well. This is a reading list of primary sources and academic literature on subjects that I will be discussing with Dr. Andrew Holecek in a series of podcasts. Mystical Islam, which includes the phenomenon known as Sufism, is a very complex phenomenon that many people, including in the Muslim world, are little aware of. Colonialism and its profound impact on the religious landscape of the Muslim world it had via diverse reformist movements (be they puritanical like Saudi Wahabism or modernists like the Muslim Brotherhood) has made sure that the once central Mystical dimension of Islam became marginalised and misunderstood.

Here are the books that I often used when teaching at university level for my students:

  1. Schimmel, Annemarie.1975. Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

By far the best introduction on Sufism

  1. Schimmel Annemarie.1995. My Soul is a Woman: the Feminine in Islam, Bloomsbury: Bloomsbury Academic.

  2. Schimmel, Annemarie.1980.The Triumphal Sun: a Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi, New York: SUNY.

I will be adding more books tomorrow.


@Yusuf_al_Hurr Dear Yusuf, thank you for the references and I am really looking forward to learning more about mystical islam‘s connection to dreams.

On a side bar, you wrote

How do you mean this?
As I have learned, Wahabism was spread by Mohammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab from 1740 onwards, first in the Najd region, which was nominally under the control of the Osman empire at that time. I couldn‘t find any source that attributed the rise of early wahabism as a mainly anti-colonial movement, or have I misunderstood your sentence?
So, what do you mean with colonialism‘s impact on the religious landscape, or did you mean the more younger movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, that you mentioned?
The sentence could be understood to mean that the marginalization of mystical islam is the direct consequence of colonialism, although, at least, early wahabism displaced forcefully other currents of islam on the basis of its radical doctrine at a time where anti-colonial movements were not yet a factor. As far as I am aware, this became a factor much later such as in the frame of the arabic revolution of 1916.

best regards


Thank you George for your question. While it is true that Wahabism emerged in the Najd region during the late 18th century it only really became a significant movement when it received backing from the Mussouri branch of the British intelligence services in British India. Wahabism was at its core s puritanical movement and not so much an anti-colonial one. It’s not difficult to understand why the British Empire chose to support a movement that had an approach that was do similar to puritan Protestantism.


Thanks for this background info, I did not read before of this specific covert support of wahabist groups by the British intelligence. Yes, it seems actually quite probable and fits into its interests and activities around and after 1916 in the frame of first, the covert support of Scherif Hussein and the arabic rebellion and then, second, after dropping Hussein, it would have “made sense” to weaken him and support Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud who attacked Hussein with his wahabists forces in 1924.

Has there been no earlier persecution of mystical islam in the islamic world?


Excellent question. The answer is rather complex. In the Sunni world there have been persecutions against specific groups or people who were considered by the jurists (fuqaha) to have gone against the rules of the divine law (shari’ah). Famous cases were Mansūr al-Hallāj and Sohravardī. However one should keep in mind that the notion of the centrality of mysticism was never called into question. Rather it’s certain aspects of these people’s doctrines that were considered excessive and dangerous. At the time of Hallaj’s execution the main jurist also happened to be main codified of Sufism, Abu Qasim Junaid al-Baghdadi.

In the Shi’I world the tension is far stronger. The 19th century Shi’i jurists of the Usuli school have always been weary not only of Sufis but of the very notion of mysticism. This culminated in a purge in the early 19th century of Sufis in Iran and Iraq. An influential cleric by the name of Muhammad Ali Bihbihani nicknamed “Sufi kosh” (Sufi killer) declared Sufis apostates and had them killed or banished. In Shi’ism there is a non Sufi form of mysticism known as 'Iran that was able to survive even within the seminaries by going underground and keeping a low profile. It’s basically like Sufism without the structure and rituals of the Sufi orders. Because of its resemblance to Sufism the anti-mystical jurists have been extremely suspicious even of orthodox 'irfani mystics.


Thank you very much for taking the time to explain and elaborate; very interesting and informative! I am really looking forward to your interview with Andrew. Best regards, George


Dear George

Don’t hesitate if you have questions. I am glad you asked as it a good opportunity to dispel misunderstandings.

Kind regards


Thank you.
When is the podcast with Andrew?
Is this your calligram, from FaceBook?


This is indeed my work although I must admit I am not entirely happy with it. I prefer the other version.